Winter weather = winter squash.

October 11, 2009

We had another cold day, so I cranked up the oven and stovetop again to heat things up in here. The heat has come on about 3 times since yesterday, and we woke up to an even colder room this morning than we did yesterday. Awesome!

This dinner kept things toasty for a little while at least.

barley risotto-stuffed winter squash

barley risotto-stuffed winter squash

I made the barley risotto the same way I usually do, though this time I had no broth so I made a quick Parmesan broth by boiling some water with a Parmesan rind I threw in the freezer a few weeks ago. I let them simmer together for about 10 minutes, took out the rind, and got started.

While the risotto was cooking, I roasted a (halved, with seeds and pulp removed) acorn squash that I picked up for 50 cents at the farmer’s market yesterday. This guy was pretty little, so I just rubbed it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 375* for about 50 minutes, until the skin pierced easily with a knife and both halves looked dangerously close to collapsing. I did the first 20 minutes face up and the last 30 face down.

I always like roasted acorn squash but this was especially good, I think because I roasted it longer than I have in the past, and because the olive oil helped it brown up nicely. Also, I didn’t have to bother adding vegetables to the risotto, since I was serving it in a vegetable. So clever.

Plus, the window in the kitchen actually fogged up while I was cooking. I think it’s going to be a long winter.


Beans and greens

February 2, 2009

So, the whole experience of eating animal flesh again after a month off was kind of anti-climactic. I secretly expected to bite into a little shrimp and keel over, but I didn’t. And I’m happy to report that shrimp fajitas are still good. They probably would have been even better if I hadn’t ruined the experience by eating fried ice cream for the first time in three years, bolstered by a sense of accomplishment from doing a super intense 75-minute power yoga session. Anyway, I ordered the ice cream, which was sizable enough to prompt a little girl to say “Is it her birthday? It’s someone’s birthday!” loudly enough for the four other people in our entire town who weren’t watching the super bowl to hear. And then I ate it. That’s when I keeled over. The shrimp seemed to have very little to do with it.

After all that, it was kind of nice to go back to a comfortable, low-maintenance, and meatless diet today. Tonight was another PDQ meal.

I know. But I just can’t help myself. I love it. Plus, I went to kickboxing after work and I really wanted to eat before midnight.


toasted barley and orzo salad with black-eyed peas

This was accompanied by some kale (double garlic greens from How to Cook Everything), because I just can’t separate black-eyed peas from greens in my mind. I loved both parts of this meal – garlicky greens just seem right no matter what, and the barley and orzo salad was really chewy and warm and filling.

Okay, time for the sleeps.


January 26, 2009

I know we’ve been having soup a lot lately, but it has been freezing here. Just really, really cold, and all I want is warm food. Even eating a room temperature apple at lunch today was kind of pushing it. So last night I tried out a recipe that I saw a few weeks ago for lentil and vegetable barley soup.

soup, salad, english muffin

soup, salad, english muffin

Matt liked this soup, but I thought it was pretty bland. Hearty, yes. Filling, yes. Flavorful, no. So I made up for it with a generous serving of feta. And I threw some on the salad for good measure, too.

I liked tonight’s dinner a lot better. However, it was another lesson in “reading the recipe” because, while I had every intention of making this recipe, I came home from work ready to cook and, reading through it again, realized that I was supposed to put things in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours. This would already have been a challenge, as it would have had us eating between midnight and 2am. The challenge was intensified by the fact that we do not have a slow cooker. But, at that point, I was all hyped up to try this, so what I just took inspiration from the original and made it my own way.

vegetarian cassoulet + roasted broccoli

vegetarian cassoulet + roasted broccoli

Here’s what I used:

  • ~tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 3 cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • ~1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • ~tsp dried thyme

And here’s what to do with it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Add onions, saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add carrots, parnsips, celery. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add beans and broth. Stir. Bring to a high simmer for about ten minutes.
  6. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Top with bread crumbs.
  8. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until browned.

This makes 4-6 servings, depending on how hungry you are.

The most exciting part of this experience for me was trying parsnips for the first time. They’re delicious.

I didn’t mess with using any meat substitutes, because I usually don’t like them and because the beans seemed like plenty. Plus, I’ve never had a real cassoulet, so, as far as I’m concerned, this is what they’re supposed to taste like. It was just plain good food, so I’m happy with how it turned out, even without the slow cooker.

Now I’m going to enjoy some cookies painstakingly baked for me by Girl Scouts. And maybe some hot chocolate. I think it’s still snowing, and that really calls for hot chocolate.

Blogging is hard

January 6, 2009

Between settling back in at work (and being incredibly productive due to my new 2009 productivity system, I might add) and going to basketball games and mourning Arielle’s permanent hiatus, I kind of forgot I had a blog. Oops. Can’t be a good sign.

Since I’ve been forgetting to take pictures anyway, I’ve decided that I won’t post boring stuff like the mushroom and potato fritatta we had for the 89th time last night, or the pizza we had on Sunday, or the 3 dozen bowls of chili we’re likely to have between now and April.

So, in that vein, here are two new dishes I made to break in my Christmas cookbooks.

Here’s Skillet Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli from Donna Klein’s PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick) Vegetarian Cookbook:


This was not as darn quick as I would have liked, but that’s really my fault for not reading the recipe, which requires an oven-proof skillet much, much larger than the one I own. So I had to bake it in a baking dish, which was glass and couldn’t go under the broiler, and so on. It was good in the end, though. I mean, cheese, pasta, broccoli. What can go wrong, really?

And tonight we enjoyed a Toasted Barley Salad from Klein’s Vegan Italiano:


Again with the cheese. I think I’ll be able to handle meatless living for a month, but never could I give up cheese. My only complaint about this was that the recipe made it sound like toasting the barley was going to give it a unique flavor, but I didn’t notice much of a difference in the end. Maybe I always toast my barley, though.

All in all, I think I’m going to like this Donna Klein character.

Okay, now I’m off to get some sleep so that I can wake up early to book plane tickets. I heard Wednesday mornings are the best times, so I’m all over that.


November 21, 2008

I’m so happy that it’s Friday night. I mean, I always am, but this week has been so wacky that Friday seems even more exciting than usual. I still seem to be having some kind of sickness, but I went to the doctor for a totally unrelated reason today and she assured me that I still had life left to live. Which is good because, obviously, I have my readership to think about.

After the doctor, I went to the gym for some kickboxing, my first class in months. It was pretty good, although this teacher has a bad habit of screaming things into the microphone that are supposed to be encouraging, but really aren’t. “You like these jumping jacks, don’t you? We can do jumping jacks all day!!!!!!!” No, actually, I don’t. And I can’t.

Afterwards, I felt like I should eat soup, because my throat hurts and it was also fairly cold today. But, I’d already made a deal with myself that I could make pizza if I made it through my doctor’s appointment and still went to kickboxing. I may have to make this a new Friday thing, so that I can better resist the urge to go out to eat at the end of every workweek.

Anyway, I used some whole wheat crusts from Whole Foods to make two pizzas. One was tomato sauce, chicken-apple sausage, green pepper, mushrooms, spinach, and mozzarella. The other was olive oil, green pepper, mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella, and goat cheese. Both were pretty good, although the crust was pretty weak. I like the ones we tried from People’s much better.

Pizza Pizza

Pizza Pizza

Last night, I had a play to see with my class (second to last event of the semester!), so I made a really quick stir-fry for dinner. Just broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and chickpeas, with some garlic and a few slugs of soy sauce and rice vinegar. I served it over quick-cooking barley, since I had no time for rice.

Vegetable Barley Blast

Vegetable Barley Blast

I really need to stop taking pictures while standing in the living room. It doesn’t do much for my food styling. It also really distorts things. I

Anyway, I let the chickpeas sit in the pan for a little while, and they got all crispy and delicious. Mmm. Chickpeas. I kept picking those out of the remaining mix until I had to leave.

Okay, basketball’s on! Have a happy weekend.

Another Sunday.

September 28, 2008

Hey, I finally cooked. Quite an accomplishment, considering that I woke up this morning and basically decided I wasn’t going to do anything today. At all.

But after about 985 hours of whining, I summoned the energy to get out of bed and make oatmeal, and I’ve been going ever since. I got groceries, went to the library, went to the gym, came home and worked on my self-evaluation for work, and made some barley risotto. I realize that only one of those things is relevant here, but HA! I snuck the rest in.

I was planning to make this soup, but we’ve had a very sunny and warm few days here, so I didn’t feel like turning on the oven. I also wanted something labor-intensive, as I find cooking very therapeutic, and there are few things I find more stressful than writing up my accomplishments of the past year for my boss to read. It’s like one of those nightmares where you have all of your lines memorized for the high school play you’re in, but suddenly you’re in front of 1,000 (okay, 100) people and you can’t remember any of them? Except in this case, it’s that I know I’ve done 8 million things since last December, but I can only remember, say, five at a time.

Basically, it’s taking forever.

Also, that actually happened to me, the forgetting my lines thing. Although, instead of being silent, I just started reciting someone else’s. And then I started crying. But it was The Diary of Anne Frank, so the crying just made me look more authentic in my role as Mrs. Frank.

Anyway, here’s the risotto:

It was from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking, which is awesome and pretty and full of recipes that take a long time – perfect for taking a break from my self-evaluation. My love for whole grain risottos is well-established, but this one was extra fun because it had oranges in it. The recipe also called for creme fraiche. Yeah, I don’t really keep that around. I added some extra cheese and voila. It’s basically my ideal meal: a whole grain, fruit, greens, and cheese. All in one pot. Oh, and I took Heidi’s advice and garnished with walnuts. Lovely.

Whole grains are delicious.

July 28, 2008

I’m having an RA flare, and while it’s relatively mild, I’m still finding it quite annoying because it’s all spread out – left knee, right hip, left hand, and jaw. Fun times all around, basically. So, no kickboxing for me, but I did hit the gym after work to do some cardio and weights. I’m always really proud of myself when I manage to exercise through pain – as long as it’s not excruciating, it really helps.

But enough self-congratulation. Wait, no. I’m not done. This meal was really delicious, too:

I’m going mostly meatless this week, just because meat is expensive and I didn’t want to buy any before we go on vacation. Good thing, too, because I took some WebMD diet assessment today and it was all DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! TOO. MUCH. PROTEIN.

So the main course (top right corner) was a delightful barley and walnut salad. It was inspired by a recipe from Food and Wine, with some major modifications. I’m more of a Cooking Light kind of girl, so I was a little appalled by the fact that the recipe called for 1/3 cup of olive oil. Just the idea of that makes me feel kind of sickly. Anyway, it’s barley, a few toasted walnuts, some spinach that I threw in with the barley at the last minute, a nice lemon vinaigrette, and some feta.

Close up:

I also roasted some veggies to have on the side, because I wanted to take advantage of the fact that it was only 78 degrees.

Now I’m off to clean and read and stress out over whether or not I can make it to the gym in the morning.